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The Adventures of Sinbad: With Gloucester Rugby star James Simpson-Daniel

By The Citizen  |  Posted: February 19, 2014

I WAS really disappointed that the horse I own with Mike Tindall and Nicky Robinson had to be pulled out of a Grand National trial.

It’s a nice distraction and I was really looking forward to seeing how Monbeg Dude was going to go but it was nothing serious.

You can always compare these things to rugby. He coughed after doing some work so we had him tested and he scored 1/5 in terms of seriousness.

He was just a bit under the weather, and like a rugby player if we hadn’t pulled him out we ran the risk of making things worse or he might not have performed.

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But we have lots of options moving forward and there is a race a week on Saturday in Doncaster, when he will be off the antibiotics. Last week would have been perfect but Doncaster isn’t a bad race.

It will be good to see where he is ahead of Aintree. You obviously don’t want to run last and want to ideally be in the top three which will show he has good form.

He’s a honest horse and is pretty consistent so hopefully he will run well and get some air in the lungs after two months without a race.

It’s similar to a rugby player having a pre-season match.

THAT performance against Leicester Tigers was more like we expect from Gloucester.

We saw lots of good individual performances but it was a tough, close match and we didn’t quite manage to get the result.

The positive is that doggedness and attitude was there, they had the solid base and foundations of a good performance and like I’ve mentioned before they can now look at the finer details.

There were a couple of missed kicks at goal that you really have to slot in these big games and you can’t get away from the fact that the scrum was such an issue.

They put us under a lot of pressure and when they had field position it led to scoring opportunities.

But while the scrum was a problem you cannot look further than the missed opportunities. There were a couple in the first half that we did not convert.

If our handling was better or we were a bit more clinical we might have won that match.

There’s also been a lot of talk about some of the officials’ decisions. You always get some that don’t go your way and it cost us the game on this occasion.

From where I was sitting Dan Robson’s put-in was straight and David Mele’s wasn’t. The TV clearly showed that, as did all the replays.

But you have to accept that the 50-50s might not go your way when you are away from home. We like to think the Shed can influence the referee and you have to take the same when you are on the road.

Ultimately you have to take refereeing decisions out of the game. If we had converted our chances it would not have been such a significant call.

Harlequins this week will be another tough game but the boys just have to repeat what they did against Leicester but with a greater clinical edge. If we can do that I’m confident we will get the win.

The boys have to back a performance up and simply cannot flop at Kingsholm. It was encouraging against Leicester but we have to take the next step and get the result.

We’ve had some great games against Harlequins in the past and both teams like to play rugby. Hopefully the rain will stay away and the boys can put on a good show.

IT WILL be very interesting and exciting to see how Sam Burgess goes after confirming his switch to union.

He’s an incredible rugby league player and just looking at his size that’s something we have to be very wary of, especially since he has joined our local rivals.

You only have to look at Sonny Bill Williams and what he brought to the game was just incredible and there’s a chance Sam can do the same.

It’s great for our game and I’m sure rugby league will be very disappointed to lose him. A lot of players have recently made the switch and from our point of view it’s very exciting.

The big challenge will be where to play him. With Kyle Eastmond it was a lot more straight forward because of his size but does Sam play in the back-row or the back-line?

There’s a lot of talk about putting him in the centre and that’s just such a scary prospect. Someone of his size, running hard will be incredibly difficult to stop.

He will almost always get over the gain-line, unless you put two or three men on him and that will create space for others and you could simply use him as a decoy runner.

Players are getting bigger and bigger and I blame it all on Jonah Lomu, but there is definitely still room for smaller players.

I love watching Australia because they are not afraid to chuck footballers in. A few years ago they had a back-line full of fly-halves with likes of Matt Giteau, James O‘Connor, Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and Berrick Barnes.

Of course you have to have a balance but the smaller, more flair-based players can find miss-matches and expose the heavier guys when they are flat-footed.

But we can certainly learn a lot from the league based players. I’ve played against league sides a few times in various tournaments and they are very good at putting people in space, hitting the right lines and making the right decisions.

THE Six Nations resumes on Friday night with Wales against France, and having already talked about size I can’t wait to see how George North goes in the centre.

With Jamie Roberts and Mathieu Bastareaud also in the midfield, it’s going to be a colossal match up.

Knowing France they will just want to kick to the corners, but they will also want to expose what they perceive to be weaknesses in the Welsh side.

With North in the centre, there’s a chance Wales have forced France’s hand and they will play a bit wider. That would be great for the game and it promises to be an intriguing match-up.

Moving to Saturday and England versus Ireland I was very confident but the loss of Dan Cole is huge.

I mean no disrespect to David Wilson but Cole has been a rock in the pack for so long and scrummaging is so important now.

I’m not surprised it’s taken an injury rather than form for Dan to miss out and it sounds pretty serious after the relentless grind and impact of life in the front-row. I just hope his absence doesn’t have too much of an influence.

It’s going to be a close game but hopefully it won’t be a low-scoring affair and we will see some rugby.

We haven’t seen a huge amount played yet this Championship and it once again raises question marks over the need for bonus-points. It would definitely add something.

There’s already talk of games this weekend deciding the tournament but that would ensure it goes right to the last week. In every game teams would play to the last minute.

After 60 minutes teams might start thinking let’s kick to the corner rather than the posts and go for the try, which would make things a lot more exciting.

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